Our current stay in Costa Rica has given us the the time to consider the stark contrast with our first visit here in 2007. The changes in our lives over that time have made us look at travel quite differently.
We had booked a ten day package that included stops in Tortuguero, Arenal and Flamingo Beach with plenty of activities at each. It was the first winter vacation for all three of us away from the beaches of the Caribbean and Florida. We arrived sick, never shook off the bronchitis we were fighting but went straight out anyway and fell in love with Costa Rica.
Those were the days when two weeks was all we had, perhaps twice a year if we were lucky, and it seemed important to cram as much as possible into that short period of time. As a result we often returned home as tired and stressed as when we left. Plus we had to save for the next six months to pay it all off.
The more we travel the more we have found that we are not much different from many of the travelers of our age. For most, it has only been since their 50s that they have had either the time or the money to be able to travel in the way that they choose. A recent article in Intrepid Travels, The Journal, by fellow Canadian Alison Armstrong provides some excellent insight on changing attitudes to travel as we age.
There are an increasing number of digital nomads and others who find a way to fund their travels at an early age. We continue to be amazed and surprised by the sheer number and diversity of long term travelers “out there” and by their determination to experience the world on their own terms. Some of the lifestyles are at odds with our preferences but for the most part we applaud their curiosity and ingenuity.
Back to the present, we have been perfectly content to relax at our hilltop house in Atenas, Costa Rica for the past three weeks. We don’t feel the need to explore, to fit in, or tick off boxes in a guide book. Although there are literally years of exploration left in this beautiful country we can choose to return if the timing is right.
We are of course older now but by far the biggest change is in our lifestyle. Gone are work commitments, looking after the house and yard, and meeting the expectations of modern North American society. Of course many people are quite content without making the dramatic changes we have, but it has certainly changed our approach to, and appreciation for life.
One major change we have noticed since we began this journey is that there is no longer the sense of wanting something more. This not only applies to all the “stuff” like clothes, gadgets, cars etc. but also to travel. Of course we would love to be able to indulge in an extended African safari, pamper ourselves at an over-water bungalow in the South Pacific, or cruise the Caribbean for an entire year but those are just fantasies that we may or may not make reality.
Our current lifestyle has given us much more freedom and mobility. If we don’t like the weather it will always change, or we can move. If we don’t like the neighbourhood we can easily change that too. And perhaps what is most important is that if we enjoy where we are and the people we are with we can stay longer or return.
It is these type of relatively simple concepts that have made our minds lighter, our bodies healthier, and allowed us to enjoy more of the simple things that are so often right in front of us. We certainly enjoyed the Eiffel Tower, the museums of London, the remarkable castles of Sintra, and the breathtaking cathedrals of Seville and Cordoba. But apart from all of these wondrous sights perhaps what stands out most are the cafes of Spain and Portugal, the natural wonders of the Amazon, the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean from the cliffs of Cabo de Sao Vicente, Portugal, and the stunning wildlife of Costa Rica.
As we enjoy the fabulous view across the Central Valley in Costa Rica from our rental home in Atenas we have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly times go by without feeling the need to do more or have more.
Watching young doves hatch, fledge and leave their nest, excitedly spotting a different species of trogon, or simply marveling at the changing cloud formations above the volcanoes in the distance all relax our minds and give us peace and contentment. Daily swims provide physical activity, twice a week we venture into town to pick up groceries and practice our Spanish, we communicate with friends and family from the comfort of our open living room, and this is enough for now.
In a few days Erik and his girlfriend arrive and we will do some exploring and share with them some of the beauty of this country before we head south to our house sit in Playa Matapalo. We feel relaxed, comfortable and secure in the knowledge that we are living our life the way we choose and that the future is ours to shape in the way that suits us best.
We have plans in place to return to Portugal this summer that hopefully will work out, but for now life is good. We will take our new attitude with us and enjoy the time and opportunity that we have – beyond that it is hard to predict – and what this life has in store for us remains to be written. As they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida (Pure Life!).